Comelec To Oppose Arroyo Trip

Last Tuesday, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) said that it would be a challenge in the court for former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s fresh bid to seek medical treatment abroad, citing her tendency to “amplify” her health condition.

It was said and stressed by COMELEC Chair, Sixto Brillantes Jr., which was very risky for Arroyo to be allowed to leave the country since she is currently detained at Veterans Memorial Medical Center on charges of electoral sabotage.

“We don’t want to allow her again this time because she used to say that before and it turned out that she can be treated by our doctors here,” Brillantes told the reporters last Tuesday in a telephone interview.

Brillantes was referring to Arroyo’s previous attempt to leave the country supposedly for treatment of a rare bone disease. Also he said that the electoral sabotage was a capital offense so Arroyo could not just be allowed to simply leave the country. He said foreign doctors should instead be brought to the country to examine her.

Conceding that the Pasay City Regional Trial Court of trying the case against Arroyo has the final say on the issue, he said that the COMELEC would “ask for verification and check up on her true condition.”

Previously, a source coming from a close person to the Arroyo family said that the former President, who is now a representative of her hometown in Pampanga, was facing a “life-threatening condition” due to complications arising from her earlier surgery to treat her neck ailment.

On Thursday, Arroyo decided to undergo the Quantum electrochemistry examination at Makati Medical Center after experiencing choking sensations and shortness of breath.

A doctor present during the examination has said that a corrective surgery had to be done abroad as “no doctor would touch her here because of her delicate medical situation.”

A close Arroyo ally, House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, said that the former President had to seek medical treatment abroad because no Filipino doctor was willing to perform a surgery for her.

“They are hesitant because they are afraid that this might lead to her death. They know that she has a very rare ailment,” Suarez said in an interview with reporters.

He said Arroyo had identified medical experts abroad who were willing to perform the delicate surgery. He said the minority bloc would file a resolution appealing to President Aquino to allow Arroyo to leave.

He said the minority would use as a precedent the decision of then President Ferdinand Marcos to allow Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, the current President’s father who was under detention, to seek medical treatment abroad for his heart ailment.

“Why was Ninoy allowed to get treatment in the US when there are heart specialists in the country?” asked Suarez. “I think the President will consider our request because his only condition was if GMA (Arroyo) would return to which we have no doubts.”

Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo accused of Plunder, Again

A complaint filed by lawyer Frank Chavez last Tuesday against former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo accusing she plundered an overseas workers’ fund to boost her 2004 election campaign. The complaint claims Arroyo ordered about 530 million pesos ($12.3 million) diverted from the fund to pay for health cards with her image on them distributed during the campaign. About 9 million Filipinos work overseas due to a lack of employment at home, and their contributions to the trust fund pay for repatriation during emergencies, medical care and other needs unique to overseas workers. The complaint alleges their money was misused when part of the trust fund was allegedly diverted to pay for health cards, which are available to all Filipinos to pay for hospital care. He also claimed she diverted 21.5 million pesos ($494,000) to pay for diplomatic vehicles in the Middle East in support of the US-led war in Iraq and “humanitarian assistance” to Filipinos in Iraq in 2003. The Justice Department is still reviewing a previous plunder complaint that Arroyo ordered the sale of prime government property to a private developer but did not remit 72 million ($1.7 million) incapital gains tax.

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo - Frank Chavez

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo - Frank Chavez

Under the law, currently serving or former state employees who amass at least 50 million pesos ($1.15 million) in ill-gotten wealth through criminal acts could be charged with plunder.

Arroyo orders full probe of Cebu bus tragedy

Outgoing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered Tuesday a full investigation into the tourist bus tragedy that killed at least 21 people in Cebu province last weekend.

A report on radio dzBB’s Cebu affiliate said Mrs. Arroyo, who was in the province, ordered Central Visayas police head Chief Superintendent Lani-o Nerez to lead the probe.

Mrs. Arroyo’s order came even as the Department of Transportation and Communications has suspended the franchise of the bus operator for the fatal accident last Sunday.

Radio dzBB reported Tuesday the DOTC will also let the Foreign Affairs Department coordinate with the Iranian Embassy in informing the victims’ kin.

At least 21 people, most of them Iranians, were killed when a Cattleya tourist bus (GWZ-666) fell from the Transcentral Highway in Balamban town last Sunday.

More than 20 other passengers were injured.

Negligence, not accident

Land Transportation Office (LTO) head Alberto Suansing on Monday said he did not consider the tragedy an accident.

Suansing, who went to Cebu to inspect the site of the incident, said the crash could have been avoided had the driver been more careful.

“This is not qualified to be called an accident, negligence yan. Maganda ang kalsada, paved ang kalsada, so talagang nagkulang sa pag-iingat (This is not qualified to be considered an accident. This is more of negligence. The road conditions were okay and the road was paved, so this is one incident that could be avoided with caution),” he said.

Citing reports reaching him, he said witnesses saw smoke coming out of the bus before the crash, indicating its brake pads were burned.

The driver could have avoided the tragedy had he slowly stopped the bus, he added.

“We’re trying to avoid a situation where ang sasabihin ng mga foreigner is pabaya tayo sa ating tungkulin. Una ang masiguro ang mga sasakyang ginagamit natin roadworthy (We are trying to avoid a situation where foreigners criticize us for being negligent. We have to make sure our public utility vehicles are roadworthy),” he said.

On the other hand, preparations are ongoing to bring to Manila the remains of the 20 Iranian victims of the tragedy.

The dzBB report said the Iranian Embassy is now processing the necessary documents. (LBG/RSJ – see more on GMANews.TV and read more on Yahoo! Philippines News)

Group seeks RP exemption from Asean tariff regime

President Gloria Arroyo sits with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao (right), Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (left) and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (third from left) during the 15th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit in Hua Hin, Thailand on Sunday.

President Gloria Arroyo sits with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao (right), Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (left) and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (third from left) during the 15th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit in Hua Hin, Thailand on Sunday.

For domestic industries to fully recover from damages caused by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng, the Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI) said that the government must invoke an article of the Asean

Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA) that would temporarily exempt the country from the zero-tariff regime beginning next year under the Asean Free Trade Area-Common Effective Preferential Tariff (AFTA-CEPT) scheme.

In a statement over the weekend, FPI added that in a letter it sent to President Gloria Arroyo last week, the group appealed that the Philippines immediately invoke Article 23 of ATIGA, or the “Temporary Modification or Suspension of Concessions,” citing the “extreme circumstances resulting from the devastation of the recent national calamities.”

Read More>>

Arroyo orders watch on insurance firms

MANILA, Philippines – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered the Department of Justice to prosecute erring insurance companies amid the expected deluge of damage claims in the aftermath of the recent calamity.

Citing figures from the Philippine Insurers and Reinsurers Association (Pira), Insurance Commissioner Eduardo Malinis said insurance firms were expecting around P11-billion worth of property insurance claims and another P1 billion for motor vehicles.

“The concern nowadays of many of our people – those whose vehicles and properties were affected by typhoons ‘Ondoy’ and ‘Pepeng’ – is how to settle their insurance claims at the soonest time possible,” Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said in a briefing in Malacañang Sunday.

Read more

Arroyo lashes out at critics over travel expenses issue

For the first time, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo openly lashed out at critics over her supposedly excessive travel expenses, insisting that her trips abroad were necessary for national security as well as the protection of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

In a radio interview aired Thursday morning, President Arroyo dared her critics to see for themselves the consequences of withdrawing the country’s policy of global engagement.

“Kaya ang hamon ko sa ating critics: Sige mag-withdraw tayo sa global engagement. Gusto ba natin na less ang economic growth, gusto ba natin less ang national security, gusto ba natin na less ang protection sa OFW (I challenge my critics to see what happens if we withdraw our global engagement. Do we want less economic growth, less national security and less protection for OFWs)?” she said in an interview on dzXL radio.

Read more..

Arroyo cancels jet order

Decision comes on heels of controversial dinners.

MANILA, Philippines—Under fire for expensive dinners in New York and Washington, D.C., President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has decided to forgo plans to purchase a new presidential jet to the tune of P1.2 billion.

“I’m formally announcing that the President has ordered the cancellation of the purchase of a presidential jet,” Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said at his weekly media forum aired on the government-run Radyo ng Bayan.

Read more..

Palace: Arroyo does not feel threatened

But analysts say Cory’s death spells trouble.

SASMUAN, PAMPANGA — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo did not feel threatened by the multitudes of people who had gathered for the burial of former President Corazon Aquino on Wednesday, a Malacañang official said here on Thursday.

Analysts, however, say the resurgence of the “people power” movement after the death of Aquino has damaged her political foe, Ms Arroyo.

“We have nothing to be threatened [about],” said the President’s deputy spokesperson, Lorelei Fajardo. “We’re happy to see that our people have shown their support and love for our nation again and that’s a good sign.”

Read more…

Junk Cha-cha, Church asks GMA

Church authorities Sunday advised President Arroyo to ditch the issue of Charter Change (Cha-cha) in her State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) Monday, saying that the public has rejected constitutional amendment repeatedly in the past.

Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iniguez, head of the public affairs committee of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said Mrs. Arroyo should instead focus on providing solutions to the problems plaguing the country.

Read more…

Arroyo and the church: Continuous honeymoon?

If being blessed by the Catholic Church is determined by numbers, then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has got it.

With reliable supporters in the Church hierarchy, Arroyo has had an easier time than her two predecessors when it comes to church-state relations.

It could be that she is a woman and a devout Catholic, like former President Aquino, that bishops tend to be kinder, or more tolerant of her.

Previous presidents Fidel Ramos and Joseph Estrada clashed with the Catholic Church, specifically Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin. From population control programs to Charter change to moral issues, the bishops used the pulpits in criticizing Ramos and Estrada.

But when it came to Arroyo, the sermons were rather muted.

Read more…